Having lived abroad before, I knew the one thing I would miss most about the city is the culinary adventures one can embark upon wandering about its streets. Before leaving Bombay a few weeks ago, I made sure to have all my favorites, one last time, until I was back again.
This meant starting with the quintessential vada pav (vada is boiled potatoes flavored with spices, held together with gram flour batter and deep fried; pav is a type of bread, generally square in shape). After many decades in Bombay, most of which is spent sampling different vada pav’s, I had narrowed down my three favorites – one next door to my school at the edge of Pali Hill, an unassuming tea and lunch stall, the famous vada pav stand next to Hutatma Chowk and the third one next door to Elphinstone Road railway station, frequented by the office crowds and commuters alike. Vada Pav is generally served with dried garlic chutney, and green chutney spread across the pav. There are few things tastier than biting into a hot, fresh vada pressed between the two sides of the pav covered with spicy chutneys.
The way they make sandwiches in Bombay is unlike anywhere else in the world. A more filling alternate to a vada pav, it is the perfect evening snack. Now you can either get a grilled sandwich from a fast food restaurant that you can find across the city, or from the street vendors that make it right before your eyes, and which are scrumptious to say the least. My favorite is the vegetable cheese grilled sandwich toast which is available outside Saroj and Glanz stores in Khar. Everyone is the area flocks there, a dime a dozen. It is beetroots, cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes, butter, green chutney and grated cheese toasted to perfection between two slices of white bread. They serve it piping hot, with a side of green coriander chutney to just add that extra spice to each bite.
Last in the list is the Bombay chaat. The chaat available here is very different from the types you find in North India. While the chaat in North India is often characterized by the use of yogurt, tamarind chutney, lentils, fried potatoes and chick peas, the chaat you find on the streets of Bombay is often made with a combination of puffed rice, sev (fried chickpea flour of a thread like consistency), boiled potatoes, tamarind and coriander chutneys, raw red onions, raw mangoes, boondi (fried chickpea flour in small rounds) and sweet and spicy flavored water. The most famous kinds are bhel puri, sev puri and pani puri, all of which are a different type of chaat with similar ingredients (but varied tastes). Puri here is a type of deep fried crispy bread.
Now while I salivate and reminisce about my favorite Bombay street food, I hope you enjoyed the journey and have the chance to try them out!